Identity

How You, Personally, Can Fight the Anti-Trans Bills Surging Across the U.S.

Coordinated efforts by hate groups have led to pieces of legislature targeting trans kids in 33 states this year. Here's what to do, wherever you are.
April 14, 2021, 7:00pm
A genderqueer person sitting in a hospital gown sitting in an exam room
Photo by Zackary Drucker for The Gender Spectrum Collection

This year alone, 33 different states have introduced pieces of legislation that aim to restrict the lives of transgender Americans. Four states—Arkansas, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Tennessee—have already passed anti-trans bills or implemented their key parts through executive action. While other states continue to consider transphobic legislation, there are a variety of ways anyone around the country can work to derail these bills as anti-trans sentiments and policies ramp up throughout the U.S.

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We’ll get into actions you can take below, but the first step is knowing what we’re up against. The threats to trans rights are organized: Anti-LGBTQ hate groups like the Alliance Defending Freedom have been at the forefront of lawsuits that pushed to make Title IX exclude discrimination on the basis of gender identity, and are said to be behind coordinating many of the bills. Extreme right-wing coalitions including ADF and other organizations like it have gone as far to advertise model legislation online that politicians can use to attack trans Americans. 

A majority of the bills across the country focus on two main themes. The first is preventing transgender school kids from playing on extracurricular school sports teams that align with their gender identity. These bills are making significant progress in Kansas, North Dakota, and West Virginia and are gaining traction elsewhere in the country, too. The second main group of bills aims to prevent doctors from providing trans-affirming medical care to children under the age of 18, essentially destroying young trans Americans’ chances of having any shot at normal adolescence. The stakes are mortal ones: Affirming care has been shown to decrease the rate of suicidality in trans youth, according to The Trevor Project, and withholding such care could endanger young LGBTQ lives. 

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This year, 21 states introduced laws that could ban affirming care for trans minors. On April 6, Arkansas became the first state in the country to ban such care for minors (overriding a governor's veto to do so). North Carolina’s latest bill would ban trans-affirming medical care for those under the age of 21 (and require state employees to disclose to parents if their children display “gender nonconformity”). Eight other states are still debating similar legislation. UCLA’s Williams Institute estimates that as many as 45,000 kids across the country could lose health care if bills from those states become law. 

Montana has also proposed a law that would make it harder for trans people to change their gender markers on IDs and Arkansas has resurrected the infamous “bathroom bills” which would bar trans people from using bathrooms that match their gender identity. As this year’s legislative session continues, the bills being debated in Statehouses continue to get more and more extreme. Texas is debating adding trans-affirming health care to its criminal definition of child abuse

These bills aren’t without backlash. Businesses in states where these bills have passed or are near passing have spoken out against the anti-trans legislation fearing the economic harm it would do to states. This week, the NCAA became perhaps the highest-profile group to boycott states that pass bills that would bar trans kids from playing on sports teams that match their gender identity, saying the organization won’t hold college basketball championships in any of those states. 

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You may not have quite as much institutional power as the NCAA, but there’s still plenty the average person can do to oppose these bills. Anti-trans legislature isn’t just an issue for trans people to speak out about—many of them are tired of fighting for their basic human rights. When trans protections are under attack, especially to the extent they are now, cisgender people must stand up, too, whether it’s their state or another that is threatening trans Americans as a whole. 

Use this guide to help contact legislators, give to and become involved in mutual aid funds, and spread the reach of local organizations fighting on the ground.

Contact state legislators and governors in states where anti-trans laws are on the table.

Are you unsure if your state has introduced anti-trans legislation? Use this tracker from the ACLU to see if bills have been introduced in your state. You can look up your state representatives here and contact them to say you oppose any efforts to roll back the rights of transgender Americans. 

State legislators are often a lot easier to get in touch with than members of Congress because of their proximity to their constituents and how much less feedback they get from the public. They’re also often more likely to change their opinion due to the sizes of their constituencies, especially in smaller states where lawmakers don’t expect a large volume of calls or emails related to bills under consideration. Contacting politicians who can actively oppose these bills is a great strategy to keep them engaged in the issue, too, even if they have been involved with them for a long time.

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Use the following links to read the texts of bills that are currently in progress and find contact information for the legislators that are sponsoring the legislation. Bills that are on the verge of passing or are being sent to their respective governors have their contact information added here, too.

Work with local groups supporting trans rights and lives on the ground.

If you live in states where anti-trans legislation is not currently making its way to becoming law and you want to help, one of the best things you can do is donate to local groups that help trans people in states across the country. One option is to funnel dollars towards mutual aid projects that provide direct relief to trans people; these organizations are also vital in organizing direct action protests at state capitols and outreach to politicians and allies. If you’re living in a place where you can join up with them to volunteer or share resources, reach out to them and see what they need. Even if you’re out of state, they can also direct you toward timely actions to take to push back against anti-trans bills. 

Here’s a useful list of some other groups and organizations that could use your help in states where anti-trans bills are law or are close to becoming law:

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Donating to regional groups like the Campaign for Southern Equality will ensure that your money is passed along to organizations in the Southeast that are on the front lines opposing these bills. Affiliates of the American Civil Liberties Union also provide guidance about other groups on the ground in every state. (And if you want to help trans people by putting money directly in their pockets, you can search crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe for “trans,” “transgender,” or “transition fund” and give what you can to people who are struggling right now.) 

Organize others to help with the fight remotely.

If you are looking for ways to help either inside or outside of a state where an anti-trans bill is being introduced, there are plenty of petitions you can sign online, like this one from the ACLU to stop anti-trans legislation in West Virginia, and this one in North Carolina to show the state legislature that these bills are not popular. The ACLU’s Chase Strangio’s account is also an important resource on Twitter: He follows every one of the anti-trans bills as they make their way through complex legislative procedures and often provides crucial updates about timely actions people can take to oppose them.

Groups like Equality Florida are holding virtual days of action for people to lend a hand organizing against these bills remotely, too. Many of the organizations listed above are running virtual protests as well, so reach out and see if you can lend your voice.

Follow Sydney Bauer on Twitter.